Hidden Malnutrition Crisis Could Put Almost Half a Billion Children at Risk


15 February 2012 - New global research by Save the Children has revealed that, after a year of soaring food prices, nearly half of surveyed families say they have been forced to cut back on food. Nearly a third of parents surveyed said their children complained that they didn't have enough food to eat.

The poll, conducted in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru and Bangladesh—the five countries where more than half of the world's malnourished children live—also revealed one in six surveyed had asked their children to skip school to work to help pay for the families’ food.

The survey contains a snap-shot of the hardship that families are facing in countries already struggling with high rates of malnutrition. In its new report “A Life Free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition,” the charity says that rising food prices and malnutrition are putting future global progress on child mortality at risk.

Even before the food price spikes, many of the poorest children were already surviving on a sparse, low-cost diet dominated by a basic staple such as white rice, maize or cassava, which has very low nutritional value.

Save the Children warns that if no concerted action is taken, half a billion children will be physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years, their lives blighted by malnutrition.

The chief executive of Save the Children, Jasmine Whitbread, said, “Imagine you were a parent who couldn't give your children the kinds of food that will help them grow and thrive. In recent years the world has made dramatic progress in reducing child deaths, down from 12 to 7.6 million, but this momentum will stall if we fail to tackle malnutrition.

“Malnutrition can damage children permanently, impairing their brains and bodies. But with focused action, we can put in place solutions which will end this scandal.”

Although malnutrition is the underlying cause of a third of child deaths, it has not received the same high-profile campaigning and investment as other causes of child mortality like HIV/Aids or malaria. This has meant that while the child mortality rate from malaria has been cut by a third since 2000, child malnutrition rates in Africa have decreased by less than 0.3%.

Yet the costs—both in human and economic terms—are huge. A child who is chronically malnourished, can have an IQ of up to 15 points less than a child properly nourished, whilst Save the Children estimates the cost to the global economy of child malnutrition in 2010 alone was nearly $121 billion.

Save the Children says a package of basic measures—including fortifying basic foods with essential minerals or vitamins, encouraging exclusive breastfeeding for children up to 6 months of age, and better investment in cash transfers with payments targeted at the poorest families—can turn the tide on malnutrition and reduce vulnerability to food price spikes.

Save the Children is calling on all world leaders to take a few simple measures to tackle malnutrition:

  • to make the crisis visible by setting global and national targets to reduce stunting
  • to increase funding for direct nutrition interventions, such as breastfeeding and fortification, that could save millions of lives.
  • to invest in effective social protection policies that reach vulnerable families and support small-scale farmers by ensuring that their agricultural policies aim to improve nutrition.
  • to use G8/G20 meetings to galvanise political leadership on hunger and build plan of concrete action to tackle malnutrition

Jasmine Whitbread said, “Every hour of every day, 300 children die because of malnutrition, often simply because they don’t have access to the basic, nutritious foods that we take for granted in rich countries. By acting on hunger and malnutrition, world leaders have the chance to change this for millions of children across the world.”

Notes to editors:

Save the Children’s survey results showed that: in India, one of the world’s biggest boom economies and where half of all children are stunted, more than a quarter of parents surveyed said their children went without food sometimes or often; in Nigeria, nearly a third of parents had pulled their children out of school so they could work to help pay for food; in Bangladesh, 87% of those surveyed said the price of food had been their most pressing concern in 2010.

The survey was carried out by Globescan, international research consultancy, in December 2011 and January 2012 in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Peru and Nigeria. These countries are the home of half of the world’s 170m million stunted children. Proportion of stunted children in countries surveyed: Pakistan 42% (10.1M) of children stunted,

Bangladesh 43% (7M), India 48% (60.5M), Nigeria 43% (10.9M), Peru 24% (712,560)[7] .

A randomly-selected sample of over 1000 adults over 18 years was interviewed in each country spanning both urban and rural areas. The data were weighted by age and gender to match the national population profile. The results are nationally representative. In all but Bangladesh, the interviews were carried out face to face. In Bangladesh, where the penetration rate of mobile phone among adults is between 80 and 90%, the interviews were carried out through random direct dialing.


Published in Poverty

TORONTO – As the debate over top earners’ pay continues, public dissatisfaction with income inequality remains high, according to new GlobeScan data from a 23-nation study released today, with fewer than half in most countries polled believing most rich people in their country deserve their wealth.

GlobeScan polled more than 12,000 adults across 23 countries about their attitudes towards economic inequality as part of the annual GlobeScan Radar global public opinion study on business and its role in society. In 12 countries over 50% of people said they did not believe that the rich deserved their wealth.

Seventeen of the countries were also asked for their attitudes towards economic inequality in a comparable 2008 study. This year’s findings reveal that only 43 per cent of people across the 17 countries surveyed in both years feel that most rich people in their country deserve their wealth. Almost half of those polled in both years (48%) disagree that rich people merit their wealth—a figure that has remained stable since 2008 (49%).

The figures show that public concern with the way wealth is divided remains almost as high as it was in the year of the Lehman Brothers collapse, when corporate practices—in the banking sector particularly—started coming in for intense scrutiny. They come in a week when new French president François Hollande has unveiled a new 75% tax on incomes above €1m, and when a prominent high earner, Barclays’ Bob Diamond, whose remuneration has been strongly criticised in the past, has been forced to resign.

In only six countries surveyed in 2012 did more than half feel that rich people deserve their wealth. The most likely nations in 2012 to feel that rich people in their country deserved their wealth were Australia (61% up from 53% 2008), Canada (58%, down from 61% in 2008) and the USA (up one point from 2008 at 58%). They contrast with much of GlobeScan’s recent polling, where Anglo-Saxon nations were among the developed countries where trust in business more generally was lower than in the developing world.

Attitudes in Europe were mixed, with 45% of Britons feeling the rich deserve their wealth, 31% of French and 35% of Germans.

Greece emerged as the country least likely to feel that its rich people deserved their wealth (with only nine per cent agreeing), but Russia (16%, down from 17%) Turkey (20%, up from 14%) and Spain (20%, up from 18%) were also profoundly sceptical.

Sam Mountford, GlobeScan’s Director of Global Insights, comments: “These figures show that citizens around the world remain far from convinced that the way wealth is divided in their country is fair. This underlying sense of economic inequity may well present a challenge to governments planning to cut and deregulate their way back to prosperity.”

A total of 12,234 adults were surveyed across Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and the USA between December 6 2011 and February 17 2012. Interviews were conducted by GlobeScan and its global partners face to face or by telephone. In six of the 23 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.9 to 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

 Radar Q7atg WthAtt Trk

Radar Q7atg WealthAttitude

Published in Global Public Opinion

financial times

Published by The Financial Times on October 17th, 2012, this letter was written by GlobeScan Foundation President, Doug Miller, in response to an October 11th, 2012 article entitled "Companies are facing a new type of opponent


Sir Michael Skapinker’s article “Companies are facing a new type of opponent” (October 11) builds very well on Simon Zadek’s keen observation that conflict today stems increasingly from the gulf between rich and poor within countries.

Mr. Skapinker goes on to argue quite effectively that this has created a new opposing force to free enterprise, as demonstrated by seemingly random and unexpected uprisings at mines in South Africa, at Foxconn in China and during last year’s riots in Britain (not to mention Occupy Wall Street).

This phenomenon is underscored by the poll we conducted for the BBC World Service earlier this year, which revealed that majorities in 18 of 24 countries see the economic system in their country as unfair in distributing economic benefits and costs. The fact that companies are increasingly being targeted by these “new opponents” is understandable given another finding from the same poll – that free enterprise as currently practised is progressively losing its appeal. While one in two citizens across the 24 countries believes flaws in the free market system can be fixed through reform and regulation, fully one in four now sees it as fatally flawed and that a new economic system is needed.

We would argue that the best defence to all this is a good offence. Big companies first need to manage their reputation proactively among their stakeholders to avoid being targeted; and second, they need to rediscover an authentic societal purpose at the heart of their enterprise from which to demonstrate the efficacy of free enterprise in meeting the real needs of the majority of people.

I used to joke in client presentations that those chief financial officers and other executives who continued to oppose corporate social responsibility initiatives by their companies would one day awake to discover that CSR had been replaced by something they would like even less. Well, this is it.

Read this letter on The Financial Times (Subscription Required)

Published in Global Public Opinion

TORONTO - A recent GlobeScan study of Nigerian women living in urban slums has highlighted the risks they run to their health and personal safety by using informal and outside toilet facilities – and the challenges associated with lack of adequate infrastructure in many developing nations.

GlobeScan was engaged by WaterAid to conduct a poll of women living in informal settlements in and around Lagos relating to access to sanitation and levels of concern around violence and intimidation towards women in this context. The research was intended to inform WaterAid’s media outreach and campaigning work around World Toilet Day 2012.

We found that, while informal and outside facilities were the most commonly used by women in informal settlements, these were also the kind of facilities where they felt the least safe (67% report feeling unsafe) and 60% reported the public toilets they use are generally unhygienic.

Our study found that many women felt compelled to use informal our outside facilities because of the cost of accessing public toilets. According to GlobeScan’s Radar tracking of public opinion across 20+ countries, unemployment and poverty are dominant concerns in Nigeria. This is borne out by the high proportion of women (67%) who report that the cost of using public facilities is a problem for them.

There is an extremely high demand among the women we surveyed (89%) who consider greater government investment in sanitation, even in relation to other problems such as education and transport infrastructure, to be “very important”.

Asked to give examples of harassment they had suffered, most examples given cited instances of intimidation or verbal harassment, which tended to relate to the tensions of close quarter living and sharing of facilities,

“People will insult you as if you are not human beings and neighbours”

Or male harassment and invasion of privacy,

“My neighbour or people passing will start staring at you and some will stare like they want to come and rape you.” 

WA2012 Q1

WA2012 Q6

About the Study

The poll was conducted between the 18th and 22nd of October 2012, using purposive sampling among a sample of 500 female adults (18-54). Face-to-face interviews were conducted in the urban slums of Ajegunle, Ijora Badia, Oko Agbon, and Otto-Oyingbo, in and around Lagos. In order to ensure the respondents felt at ease, given the sensitivity of the subject-matter, the interviewers ensured them of the confidentiality of their responses and the protection of their anonymity. Respondents were also provided with the details of local community organisations with whom they could, if needed, discuss their experiences further and seek support.

About WaterAid

WaterAid are an international non-governmental organisation. Their mission is to improve access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world's poorest communities. WaterAid also work locally and internationally to change policy and practice and ensure that water, hygiene and sanitation's vital role in reducing poverty is recognised. For more information, visit www.WaterAid.org 

Published in Poverty

There has been a marked decline in people's sense of global citizenship in the last two years in three of the world's major economies—China, the UK, and the USA.

While GlobeScan's latest findings indicate that a sense of global citizenship is on the rise in many emerging economies across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the ongoing economic malaise affecting the G7, the lack of progress on a new global free trade agreement, and the rekindling of doubts about the future viability of the global free market system may be among the factors that are depressing citizens' sense of belonging to the global community in these three countries. In the UK, this year's drop represents the continuation of a decline that started in 2007.

Nevertheless, the proportion of Chinese who see themselves as global citizens remains the highest of any country polled—62%. For a country that has spent much of its history seeking to isolate itself from the rest of the world, this is a striking turnaround.

Published in Global Public Opinion

While problems such as the ongoing crisis in the Eurozone, climate change, and unrest in the Middle East preoccupy governments around the world as 2012 begins, GlobeScan's regular monitoring of global concern over a range of issues highlights that it is more immediate and everyday problems that are often at the forefront of citizens' minds.

In GlobeScan's annual tracking research, corruption once again emerges as one of the global problems considered to be most serious. It is also the problem that citizens are most likely to cite when asked which global problems they have discussed with their friends and family over the past month.

As this map shows, corruption tops the list of “most talked about” problems in a range of developing and emerging economies, including Peru in South America, Ghana and Egypt in Africa, Turkey in Europe, and India and Indonesia in Asia. Corruption is also often cited as a barrier to getting to grips with many of the other global problems that, as GlobeScan's tracking shows, preoccupy many global citizens.

Taking a strong and public stand against corruption will be an important element in what businesses need to do to demonstrate their relevance to citizens' lives, help build public trust, and maintain their social licence to operate.

Published in Global Public Opinion

In a week when business leaders in the UK met with the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster to discuss ways to resurrect the reputation of the corporate sector, GlobeScan’s most recent global polling shows that while religious groups generally enjoy higher levels of trust that they will operate in the best interests of society than other institutions, in many countries there is greater skepticism about the impact they can have through their actions.

While only scientists and NGO score higher on trust levels, religious groups are viewed globally as less effective than other institutions, ranking below the media, UN, corporations, and governments.

More than half (55%) of Britons trust religious groups, even if just 39 percent expect them to be able to make a difference to society. Indeed, reflecting traditions of tolerance and liberal approaches to religion, all the Anglo-Saxon countries polled exhibit strong levels of trust in religious institutions coupled with reduced evaluations of religion’s social impact. European countries are often seen as the most post-religious countries in the world—in France just 19 percent profess any trust in religious groups to act in the best interests of society, although 30 percent still believe such groups can have an impact in solving social challenges.

In countries with recent histories of oppressing or trying to eradicate the influence of religion, such as Russia, China, and Turkey, there is a smaller gap between trust and perceived potential impact—although trust is the higher of the two in these countries. These are places where religious groups have stood apart from the government for many years, maximizing their appeal. With recent liberalization, the tangible impact of these formerly suppressed institutions has grown.

In Latin America, Africa, and the Islamic world, there are higher proportions who trust religious groups and expect them to make a social difference. The most trusting country in the survey is Nigeria, where fully 87% of respondents profess that religious institutions work in the best interests of society, and 83% expect them to be effective actors in addressing social challenges.

While it is questionable how far high trust levels translate into political influence, these figures show that churches remain a force to be reckoned with throughout the world, not least in some of its fastest growing and most populous nations. While business leaders hoping to harness this may have mixed success, the goal for religious organizations must be to retain their respected position and translate this trust into more effective social impact.

Published in Global Public Opinion

On Monday the International Labour Organisation (ILO) predicted that over the next 12 months the global unemployment rate could reach a record high of 120 million. Noting that young people were disproportionately hit, the ILO also commented that, while 1 million jobs had been shed in advanced economies over the past year, 3 million were lost in developing economies, despite their greater economic resilience.

The ILO’s pessimistic forecast is reflected in GlobeScan’s most recent polling on this issue. Across 22 countries, 59 percent of people agreed that unemployment was a “very serious” issue - alongside crime, the highest figure of all issues rated. Indeed, concern about unemployment was five points greater than concern about the economic situation.

Despite this and the ILO’s worries that Eurozone problems may be spilling over to the rest of the world, concern over joblessness has actually dropped markedly in many countries. Turkey, Brazil and Canada have all seen sharp drops in concern since 2009, as has Germany, which has thus far been relatively successful in withstanding the European economic crisis. Even France - where unemployment rose for the 19th consecutive month in December – has been seeing a fall in concern over this issue in recent years.

The rising optimism in the Eurozone’s two largest economies is at odds with attitudes in fellow EU members Spain and the UK. In Spain, 91 percent described unemployment as “very serious” – a figure that has remained consistently high since the onset of the crisis. In Britain, meanwhile, despite employment reaching a record high, there has been a modest rise in worry since 2009. China, the US and India have seen slight falls in concern as their economies have continued to grow.

But with little sign of a return to sustained growth in most of the world’s leading economies, it seems likely that unemployment will remain at or near the top of the list of public concerns for some time to come.

Published in Global Public Opinion

As its economy grows and lifestyles change, China is having to adapt its tightly controlled society to external influences. This week Can Nao, a Chinese charity worker revealed, he had been arrested over the Christmas period after meeting to worship in a public park. Shortly after, Shanghai’s former Communist chief stated that while the government would continue to respect religious freedom, it would also seek to adapt belief to the existing system.

GlobeScan’s polling reveals that attitudes towards faith and religious institutions are mixed in China. Our recent polling reveals that the nation’s population are among the most likely to say that science has a strong bearing on the way they live their lives (72%), with only the French and South Koreans more likely to hold this point of view.

However, many Chinese still acknowledge religious institutions’ role within society. Even in this secular country, one in three (31%) says religious groups are doing a good job in tackling social, economic, and environmental issues—some way below the numbers who say scientists are doing a good job (59%), but still a significant proportion.

India meanwhile has a near identical proportion (31%) who say religious groups are doing a good job of tackling challenges, though the proportion who rate scientists’ contribution is lower than in China (41%). Indians, however, are much more likely than Chinese to say that religion determines the way they look at life.

The country who people are most likely to say that religion, rather than science, influences how they live their lives is Pakistan—a country where the clash between fundamentalist and moderate interpretations of Islam continues to cause major political instability. Even here, though, the situation is more mixed when we look at how these groups are dealing with social issues, with scientists more likely to be seen as doing a good job (35%) than clerics (16%).

Contrast this with France, a country with a long anti-clerical tradition, where 76 percent identify science as being an important factor in the way they look at the world, and 80 percent see scientists doing a good job tackling social challenges, while the rating for religious groups stands at -26 percent.

These figures suggest that the influence of religion on populations will wane as countries develop. For now, however, China is the exception rather than the rule—faith and religious institutions will remain key factors in many of the world’s emerging economies. We can expect to see their influence both at the level of policy and in terms of consumer choice for a while yet.

Published in Global Public Opinion

Earlier this month, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) predicted that on current trends 39 percent of the world would be connected to the Internet by the end of the 2013. Penetration in developing countries is expected to reach 31 percent by the end of 2013. And, in a sign of the growing centrality of the Internet to modern life, our global tracking reveals that majorities in most countries consider Internet access to be a fundamental right.

When we polled the public in 28 countries in 2010, majorities in all nations except Pakistan (46%) considered Internet access to be a fundamental right. South Korea was the country most likely to view the Internet in this light (96%), with Mexico and Brazil (94%), and Turkey (91% each) close behind.

In 2012, we surveyed women in the developing world on this topic, together with Dalberg and Intel, for the Women on the Web study. We found again that even among this underserviced segment, large numbers were inclined to view the Internet as a fundamental right. 64 percent of Ugandan women, 62 percent of Egyptians, 63 percent of Mexicans, and 46 percent of Indians felt this way.

The countries most likely to see the Internet as a right have generally younger populations and relatively young democracies. It is therefore possible that the Internet is associated with freedom of speech and ideas among a large demographic that has grown up alongside the Internet but in cultures with memories of times when those freedoms were far from assured. While a massive investment in infrastructure will be needed to accommodate the rise in “netizens,” these findings clearly demonstrate that in the eyes of the public, web access has taken its place as a universal value.

Published in Global Public Opinion
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